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Barrel Pond Advice

Discussion in 'Water Gardening' started by Irmemac, Mar 12, 2018.

  1. Irmemac

    Irmemac Total Gardener

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    i would like to create a garden pond, but due to circumstances I will have to wait until next year to do this. However, I have the opportunity of a wooden barrel planter 24" diameter/16" height, and would love to turn it into a mini pond as a kind of practice for a larger pond next year. I have spent the evening reading online and am thoroughly confused. Can anyone with experience of doing this give me any advice/pointers etc?
     
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    • luciusmaximus

      luciusmaximus Total Gardener

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      How exciting for you @Irmemac :). I've had container ponds in the past but they were all plastic and currently have the old stone sink mini pond. I find there is a lot of conflicting advice online sometimes. What do you find confusing? A whiskey barrel should look great as a mini pond but it will need a liner to prevent chemicals in the wood leaching out into the water. You could also use aquatic sealant. Are you intending it to be a mini wildlife pond or a fish pond?
       
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        Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
      • Sian in Belgium

        Sian in Belgium Total Gardener

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        Hello, @Irmemac.

        I have had a number of wooden barrel ponds, and found them very satisfying.

        At least two of the barrels I have used have been whisky barrels, and a friend has used a wine barrel.

        Normally, by the time you've bought your barrel, it's been cut in half, and stored outside for a while. There may be a hint of aroma of the original contents, but often there isn't.

        A good wash-out, with a stiff brush, is all that is required in my experience. There is no need to line it. By definition, a whisky barrel will not leak - or the distillers would have been weeping! Once you have removed any loose surface debris, position the barrel where you want it, level it, and then fill it with water. You may find that it seeps a little water from between the slats for the first few days. This is because the wood has shrunk. As the wood becomes damp again, it will expand, and the gaps will naturally plug. After a few days, look at the surface of the water carefully. Is there a scum of any sort? Any sign of oil? If so, empty the barrel with a bucket, rinse, and re-fill. There is a good chance you won't need to do this!

        When the water has stood in the barrel for about a week, you can think about planting it. Use planting baskets, which you can position on stacked bricks (wash the bricks and remove any mortar first). Again, if unsure, soak the bricks in a bucket first, and check for any oil etc coming off, as with the barrel. One point - don't expect the plants to behave and stay in their pots!! My Iris has wandered from the side to the centre of my barrel!

        Personally, I like to have moving water. So I buy a basic outdoor pump, and site it do there is a slight disturbance on the surface. The gentle movement is lovely, and can disguise lowl-level traffic rumble very effectively. Moving water stays sweeter, and is less likely to attract mosquitoes. I also pop a couple of basic goldfish in the barrel, again, to control mosquitoes.

        Think about wildlife when you plant, as well as your pets. I had a dog who was fascinated, and I would sometimes find her half in, half out of the barrel. So I cut a piece of wire fencing to a little bigger, then turned in the ends, and positioned as a sub-surface mesh. This has the added advantage of providing a perching place for bathing birds.

        Most of all, enjoy!!
        IMG_1831.JPG
        As with all water features, you need surface cover, or blanket weed will grow. early in the season, before the watermint, rush grass, Iris and waterlily has grown, it can get a hold. A piece of Rose stem, twisted near the surface, catches the blanket weed effectively. You can also see the wire fencing, just below the surface...

        IMG_1992.JPG
        Once the leaves are up, the weed is gone!
         
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        • WeeTam

          WeeTam Total Gardener

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          What i did with my barrel was fill it with water then drained it after 24 hours so the wood swelled up. I then used an offcut of butyl to line it. Placed a small pump into it along with a few rocks so if any beasties fell in they could scramble out again.
          Its situated in partial shade with some marsh marigolds and other plants in it. Its looking ropey now but its been there for 20 years so far.
           
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          • BeeHappy

            BeeHappy Total Gardener

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            @Irmemac Thats a lovely idea, how exciting - now all you need to do is decide what plants etc are your favs :wub2: Don't you just love new project's, look forward to your updates :blue thumb:
             
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            • Irmemac

              Irmemac Total Gardener

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              Thanks to everyone for your kind replies. All the information you have provided is very helpful, although I am still uncertain about whether to line or not. @luciusmaximus, I am hoping to follow in your footsteps, by starting with a container pond and then creating a bigger pond.
              @Sian in Belgium, thank you for all the useful advice, particularly about plants. Love the idea of a water lily too!
              @WeeTam - 20 years for a barrel pond. You certainly did something right, there!
              @BeeHappy: updates guaranteed!!
               
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              • luciusmaximus

                luciusmaximus Total Gardener

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                I don't know what barrels are treated with before the whiskey goes in so there is the possibility of chemical residue leaching from the wood. I think it's a personal choice as to whether you add a liner, sealant or just a good scrub out. Sealant will degrade over time too, so need replacing. If you just want plants to make a water feature then it probably doesn't matter about the liner.

                Are you thinking of adding fish? I've had container ponds with and without fish. I did use a pump and filter for the fish and also a small heater in winter. I only had two goldfish. They became quite tame and would come up to take food from my fingers :). They also liked the melon slices I put in for the water snails.

                If creating a wildlife mini pond then you will need to add a layer of mud on the bottom and also make an escape route for anyone who gets in/falls in. I used rocks and tree branches and have done the same up here with the belfast sink and the new pond. Tree branches are good also for attracting insects as they degrade. I have arranged my rocks in both the sink and the new pond so they make a small ' cave ' as well as a ramp for entrance and egress. Important to arrange the rocks so they won't move and crush anyone who might be inside. I've left one side of the sink open so again there is a cave underneath and made a mini log pile in front of it. You could put rocks around the outside of your barrel and make several little hidey holes and mini log piles. I've used old bricks with holes in (ventilation bricks ) and small clay pots in both ponds too, just as places to shelter in.

                Exciting times for you @Irmemac :). Look forward to piccies :)
                 
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                • Irmemac

                  Irmemac Total Gardener

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                  Great advice, @luciusmaximus. I'm definitely planning to make it attractive to wildlife, so no fish (the menace in my profile picture would also love fish). Love your suggestions, especially the tree branch, which is a really good idea. Do you have any photos of your new pond yet?
                   
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                  • Sian in Belgium

                    Sian in Belgium Total Gardener

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                    Remember that if you are thinking of using a half whisky barrel to attract amphibious wildlife, you will either have to sink it in the ground, or create some form of ramp. They just can't get up the over-hanging near 2 foot sides! Insects and birds will have no problem gaining access.
                     
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                    • luciusmaximus

                      luciusmaximus Total Gardener

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                      @Irmemac do you mean the sink pond or the dogs basket - otherwise known as a preformed pond :snorky:. I have pics of both as try to remember to make a pictorial record of work I do in the garden.
                       
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                      • Irmemac

                        Irmemac Total Gardener

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                        @Sian in Belgium Very good point! I was surprised by the height of the sides when I saw it. Still to decide where to site it, which will affect whether or not it is sunk.

                        @luciusmaximus Both! I was referring to the dog's basket (!), but photos of both would be good. I have seen your early photos of the dog basket, but I think it will have come a long way since then.
                         
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                        • Outlander

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                          If you do intend to keep a couple of goldfish in there, I would suggest wrapping the outside of the barrel with some good insulation during the winter, those water tank jackets are quite good.
                           
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                          • luciusmaximus

                            luciusmaximus Total Gardener

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                            The sink pond
                            IMG_20180314_1503034_rewind.jpg
                            I have gravel and sand in the bottom of the sink but soil could be used. The marginals will need dividing at some point as they will get quite big. Also need some oxygenator weed, which is on order. You can see the mini wood pile at the back, which gives access to the ' cave ' underneath the sink. I stuffed some compost, leaves and tiny twigs into the cave. Once the grasses start growing the sink will be private and I have some other plants to put in too.

                            The dogs basket
                            IMG_20180314_1522174_rewind.jpg
                            It's ready for planting around the outside and I need a few more pond plants plus the oxygenator weed. There is a rock ramp in the pond but I need a couple more rocks to finish it - if anyone fell in they would be able to get out as it is. Can't make up my mind about planting around outside :rolleyespink: :snorky:.
                             
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                            • Gail_68

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                              Hi @luciusmaximus You could always invite people around for a [​IMG] it would help their water bills :heehee:before you totally start designing :whistle:
                               
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                              • Outlander

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                                Ha ha. I once fell in my pond whilst kneeling on a scaffold board and replacing a large stone - but the less said about it the better.:redface:
                                 
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